There are some best practices that can be followed when manufacturing a puzzle platformer for the masses. A cute character, easy-to-understand controls and a simple objective are often positives, and Escape from Flare Industries does deliver these in its packaging. Unfortunately, the end product suffers from some defects that hurt it in the Quality Assurance department.
Flare Industries stars Splat, a green blob literally engineered to be adorable and expendable. The little fella must navigate its way across 16 stages to escape the company seeking to profit off its kind.
Splat must reach the exit of each stage, often unlocking the way by landing a crate on a button to do so. There are flasks to collect and buddies to rescue, as well.
There are spikes along the way that can cause an instant kill, but Splat's life also depends on managing exposure to light. The blob's life meter goes down whenever outside of whatever lights are on in a stage, but gets restored when getting back beneath them. Think a simplified, 2D version of the Dark World in Metroid Prime 2. Some stages will have a controllable light that can reach all corners and just needs to be angled correctly, while later stages require dashes to static light stations.
Luckily for Splat it's quite mobile for a blob. It is capable of performing a double jump, and the first of these jumps can even be a high jump for extra reach. High jumps must be used with caution, however, as each takes a good chunk away from Splat's life bar. Get too acrobatic too far from a light source, and you're done.
When taken for its intentions, Flare Industries is a quick, light puzzle platformer. The graphics and music aren't going to turn many heads, but still have a '90s PC game charm. The 16 stages, with the last being a boss fight of sorts, are small and mostly uncomplicated; a player with prior experience in these kinds of games can best this one in around an hour. Some significant problems, however, arise in the bugs that can be found while playing.
Controls for Flare Industries feel a little bit loose, but are serviceable - much of the time. However, those innocuous little crates that are scattered about seem to cause Splat to have fits. Regularly when pushing crates, Splat will just stop, causing the player to have to tap the direction repeatedly to keep nudging it over. This doesn't appear to be how this was intended, as every now and then the blob will push things along just fine.
Things are even worse when a crate is on a moving platform. For some reason, Splat will sometimes clip right through the crate and appear on the other side. So imagine struggling to nudge a crate over a platform, jabbing the directional pad, when suddenly your blob appears on the other side and zooms off the edge into a spike pit. There are only 2-3 stages where this specific bug is a problem, but when you only have 16 stages it makes for a considerable part of the game.
The strangest bug encountered appeared on the final level, where controls were literally lost after a few times dying. The GamePad became fully unresponsive and the game had to be reset. When accessing the game's only save file, it had recorded a 100% completion and forced a new game. Full disclosure: we don't know what the ending of the game is like.
Without its problems, Escape from Flare Industries would likely feel much too short for some, but still has the potential to be a fine little title for anyone seeking a quick and retro-feeling jaunt. It's pleasant when it works; it's just a shame Splat suffers from more than one frustrating bug. Even with its bright eyes and squishy smile, we can't recommend this to anyone until it's recalled and patched.